John Lewis
John Lewis is launching its first technology incubator as part of its 150th anniversary celebrations

The project will see John Lewis work with technology entrepreneur Stuart Marks to select five start-ups to work in its incubator, dubbed JLAB, from June until September. While at JLAB, businesses will develop retail technology products and solutions, supported by John Lewis execs and external mentors.

John Lewis is hoping to work in three main areas: “helping customers shop”, “simplifying customers’ lives” and “knowing each other”. Suggestions include innovation around the internet of things, in-store innovation and real-time personalisation.

The retailer is also looking for start-ups that can “surprise us”. Companies have until 17 April to apply at

Andy Street, John Lewis’ managing director, says: “Our 150 year anniversary not only gives us the chance to reflect on our history but to look forward at how we shape the next 150 years. We have been head of the game in omnichannel retailing and through our JLAB incubator we will nurture the next generation of technology start-ups while helping ensure we remain on the cutting edge of retail change.”

John Lewis is just the latest retailer to throw its support behind technology incubators as companies adapt to the rise of digital and online shopping. Last year, Tesco said it would back technology hub the Rainmaking Loft while in the US Target has launched a mobile incubator to fund developers to come up with mobile retail apps.